Some reasons for optimism about the election:
- Hillary Clinton won a plurality of the popular vote, and more than 50% of the country voted against Donald Trump. If the country had direct elections, Clinton would be President. Be disappointed that Trump won, but blame the obtuse institution that is the Electoral College, not the voice of the American people.
- True, 47% of the electorate voted for a candidate who most liberals agree is sexist, racist, and grossly unqualified for the job. But it just so happened that these voters were disproportionately represented in states with a large say in the Electoral College. Again, this seems to say more about our weird institutions than the makeup of the country.
- We are shocked that all our election models were so biased. But consider that the Hillary campaign was operating on a set of information that was systematically wrong, which told her to invest in unimportant states like Georgia and Arizona. In an alternate world where polls were accurate, one can see Clinton scraping by in Florida and Pennsylvania through a huge GOTV effort.
- Comey’s release of the second set of email allegations occurred at a strategically crucial moment, just days before the election. Barring a conspiracy (which seems to me far-fetched), this was plain old bad luck.
- Hillary Clinton, who has more cause than most to despair, graciously conceded the election; President Obama is preparing for an orderly transition of power. The institutions of American democracy cannot be destroyed by one man.
This election was the unhappy result of a hundred contingent events. A Trump presidency was not inevitable, and says little that we did not know about this country already — that there is a large set of people harboring nasty nativist and borderline (and crossing-the-line) racist views, who can turn out in force and swing elections. This is appalling, but should not be surprising. We knew this from the Trump rallies, from Ferguson, from the backlash to Black Lives Matter. But this election has another message, obscured by the awful result. Over 50% of the electorate voted against Trump, and they have as much a place in this country as the 47% who voted for him.
Of course, optimism should not be cause for complacency. The rights of Muslim-Americans, African-Americans, LGBTQ Americans, Immigrant Americans, and other groups are under threat — if not from President Trump, then from the alt-right groups who support him. People in positions of privilege need to reach out to these groups and give them the support — time, money, energy — that they need.